Homeschoolers Who Do Not Learn Science Should Not Receive a Diploma

This is an argument from Steve Shives:

There are many, many things I find dubious about the practice of parents homeschooling their children. I wonder how a mother or father who has not been educated as a teacher, who in many cases has not even been to college her/himself, can possibly provide their child with as good an education as students receive in our much-maligned public schools. And I can´t help but think that these homeschool students, of whom there are several million in the United States, are being robbed of a crucial formative experience by not attending school with other people their age and being forced to interact with a diverse group of peers.Most disturbing is the virulent strain of religious fundamentalism that is found in the lessons being taught homeschooled children, especially in the United States. Not all American homeschooling is religious–that´s not what I´m saying. I´ve known people personally who were homeschooled from a secular curriculum, and there are many others like them throughout the country. I think I´m safe in saying, however, that the majority of homeschooling in the U.S. is religious–specifically, fundamentalist Christian–in nature. This is no big secret….

Read the rest here

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31 thoughts on “Homeschoolers Who Do Not Learn Science Should Not Receive a Diploma

  1. I was homeschooled for medical reasons (I have Cystic Fibrosis and was in much worse health early in life than I am now). But other homeschoolers were clearly Christian sponges, and learned nothing of proper science. I met these people. There’s a community. Thankfully, the Anchorage School District put together several charter schools that let actual high school teachers teach classes including science.I agree, though, that without a well-rounded ciriculum, homeschooled kids should not be getting diplomas.

  2. Steve Shives’s concerns involve people who should not be of his concern, is based upon false perceptions, and shows a bias against religious families.We have had children in private chruch school, in public school, and homeschooled. Each has a place, but it’s more important to select the one that serves the needs of the child best as determined by the parents–not Mr. Shives or anyone else.A little more study of homeschooling will teach someone that large numbers of homeschool families get together regularly with each other, share resources, and take advantage of the expertise of some parents by having the kids participate in joint studies with them, as we did on areas of science where I didn’t have time and expertise.In addition, there are excellent homeschool programs that provide comprehensive studies and professional reviews and advice to help parents teach.Homeschools help the parents instill values into their children that public schools cannot or will not, and you won’t find gang problems in homeschools.Even in non-academic areas, homeschooling can excel. My son’s homeschool baseball team played public high schools and went undefeated. The games weren’t even close.Finally, the ultimate proof of the effectiveness of schools is in what kind of citizens are turned out by them. My daughter, after homeschooling, went to a major state university and graduated summa cum laude. She and my other kids will never depend upon society to support them, but that can’t be said for many public school students.

  3. I often hear of wonderful results form home schooling. But that is always from people actually doing it. I usually hear the opposite from people who do not home school but have reason to meet and get to know home schooled kids, such as teachers receiving kids from a home school environment.

  4. Woody, plenty of religious families feel no need to deny their children an education in science. Mr. Shives had nothing bad to say about them here. And while he did express some general reservations about homeschooling in his first paragraph, that’s background. The meat of his argument is summed up quite nicely in his title–also the title of this post.However well your children did in other areas of their education, if you insisted that they only learn creationism, they didn’t learn everything they need to know to be effective citizens. While the extent to which they benefit from public support may never become plain to them (assuming that life doesn’t treat them too harshly), their chances of contributing to public life are lower than that of many public school students.

  5. To be completely honest here, I find myself getting annoyed when someone condemns homeschooling without offering any educational solutions beyond whatever the local public school happens to be like. I wish I could have homeschooled my children, but as a single parent, I had to earn a living for us as a teacher in a community college. And I didn’t earn enough for private school.All through public elementary school, my daughter routinely finished her day’s work by 8:30 AM and spent most of the rest of the day listening to the teacher repeat and repeat for the other students things she already knew. My son was so bored by this process that he went through a period of depression.A few weeks after my daughter started first grade, on the way to school one morning she read me an interesting piece on the history of timepieces: Chinese water clocks and sundials and so on. I asked if she were reading that in school. No, she said. She’d found that little booklet in the box of a cheap watch I had purchased. “Well, what are you reading in school,” I asked her. “So far,” she said,”just some A’s and B’s and C’s and D’s. But I think maybe today we’ll read some E’s.”So I started taking them out of school whenever I possibly could; their teachers were delighted to have one less person in the classroom.They spent many, many hours in the library while I taught. When my daughter was six and my son was eight, they spent weeks researching nuclear fission reactors and the possibilities for nuclear fusion research. When my son was ten, I discovered the community college librarian had furnished him with his own little room where he could tutor college computer programming students.Between my classes, we made quick trips to museums and historical sites. They drew maps and made elaborate plans for how they could survive hiding out in the local art museum in the unlikely case that our house ever burned down. They studied ballet, and took part in city productions with matinees during school hours. They took swimming lessons and drawing lessons and music lessons and movie animation lessons. My children spent many happy days with their grandparents, playing and learning practical household skills. My father taught them math, and money management.It just isn’t so that whatever public school just happens to be available to any particular child is really the best, or even a decent, place for that particular child to get an education.

  6. Good for you, Julia! It sounds like you did what you could to get your kids through school, mentally and emotionally in tact.Unfortunately, you’ll not find a very receptive audience here to anything but “homeschoolers are all religious freaks.” :-/

  7. Julia: It’s not rue that “you’ll not find a very receptive audience here to anything but “homeschoolers are all religious freaks. “This audience is also receptive to hearing about: many homeschoolers hide their child abuse/maternal boundary issues/dogmatic child abuse via hs’ing/lazy parents using hs as a way to not get out of bed before noon/wiccan child worshippers/mormon pederasts/etc.The problem is that those guys never post what they really do, and instead, only post about ‘how wonderful/talented/far above average/and other cheerleader crap, followed by “the public schools suck/bullies suck/the system sucks, etc…

  8. the real cmf,I had a little trouble following you. I believe, however, you meant to support the idea that all children should be in public school in order to protect them from vicious parents. You don’t seem to say much about whether they are being educated properly in the school or not. You don’t seem to say anything about balancing the risks of potentially vicious parents against the risks of potentially vicious classmates or intruders smuggling in guns or drugs or just using their fists.So, if I understood you correctly, your argument boils down to this: all children should spend their days in public schools so that child abuse (apparently perpetrated mostly by Wiccans and Mormons) can be detected by the alert public system that gives them medical checks for injuries (except the system in my area doesn’t) and that assures them of balanced meals (although the schools in my area don’t) and that gets the parents out of bed before noon (though it isn’t clear why they would need to get up when even a four-year-old is perfectly capable of pulling on shirt, pants, and shoes and opening the door to run for the school bus).OK. Interesting. But not very relevant to me and my children, unless you mean to argue that my children’s education and mental health should have been sacrificed in an obligatory attendance system designed to catch child abuse directed against an unknown/hypothetical number of other children (except, again, that in our area, the system wasn’t designed that way).And it isn’t clear to me why you would trust the children to their parents all evening and all night and on weekends and holiday and all summer. Perhaps year-round boarding school for all is the answer?

  9. Cherish, I think you’ll find many people skeptical about homeschooling, but I doubt you’ll find anyone who says it’s never the right answer. I think exposing kids to the diversity of a public school system is a good thing, even when it’s uncomfortable. I think the dangers of our schools are overblown because they get reported as news while educational achievements are reported as fluff. I think teachers provide much needed supportive adult presences in more kids lives than they get credit for (or even know).I don’t think all local systems are equipped to handle all children’s needs. From her description, JuliaL’s children’s needs weren’t being met, and the school couldn’t meet them. Luckily, those children had adults interested in allowing and encouraging them to learn all they could.My concern with the “religious freaks” is that they have a different agenda in homeschooling. However much they pretty it up with sports trophies, their main interest is in keeping their children from being exposed to certain information. That’s not education.

  10. Stephanie,I agree about the folks who are homeschooling to prevent their children from being exposed to “evilution”. However, there are a number of things I really don’t want my child exposed to at public school. My son started back to middle school this year, and he comes home asking me what other kids meant by this or that comment or gesture, and I’m horrified by the things these other boys are saying. So I’m not completely comfortable with the “diversity” at his school…since it consists of a lot discussion of sex and homophobic comments.That being said, I do appreciate it when people understand that public school is not a “one size fits all” scenario. That is the only thing I’m asking people to consider. Just because one homeschools does not mean that one automatically has ill intentions for the child.It also torques me off when people imply that because you don’t have a teaching degree, you don’t know how to teach children. I’ve spent quite a bit of time teaching in junior and high school as well as at the college level. I chose not to get an education degree but have been very active in education programs through my local schools. How does that make me less qualified to teach my child than someone who has to retake the Praxis exam three times before they pass the math portion of the exam??? My experience in high school was that most of my friends who wanted to become teachers were the average students. While they were nice people, I can’t exactly see them creating an environment of intellectual curiosity and growth when they did have much of that themselves.Anyway, it just strikes me that some people who are anti-homeschooling are as narrow-minded as the folks who right-wing Bible-thumping “God’s Kingdom” homeschoolers. However, because they aren’t Bible-thumpers, they seem to think they’re so much more reasoned than everyone else and they therefore must know better than the rest of us.

  11. I homeschool my 12 yo. Why? Well, because the public school didn’t work for him. He is tested yearly, and is 3 grade levels ahead in math, and on grade level in reading. He has lost a few friends though…not because he isn’t being “socialized”, but because he doesn’t go to church, and the religious kids aren’t allowed to play with him. And these are the kids who do go to public school–guess all that socialization doesn’t actually make them nicer or more open-minded.Studies show that a teacher’s certifications has no correlation to test scores. Studies also show that homeschooled kids test higher on SATs and other standardized tests. See: there is a section of homeschoolers who are very religious, there are also many homeschoolers who are more concerned with academics and socialization. I want him to spend time with a wide range of people, people of all ages. I want him to volunteer his time to different causes. I want him to have time to play, instead of being burdened with hours of homework. I want him to study advanced math, if he’s capable, and to spend exra time on areas where he’s weak (spelling) until he really understands it, instead of just pushing him through and giving him a low grade.And since public schools are only graduating about 60 to 70% of their students, I question their effectiveness.There is a private school near me which does not teach evolution. It is a Baptist school, and uses Abeka curriculum. So, my son is getting the science education from homeschooling that all those private school kids aren’t getting.Homeschooling isn’t the problem. As an atheist parent, I raise my child to be freethinking, questioning, and logical. He studies math and sciences, and I expose him to religion, too–all religions.Another parent will raise their child another way. And public schools won’t–can’t–change that.

  12. The linked article is not a general bash on homeschooling. The writer specifically states that if the curriculum of homeschooling (or private school) does not include evolutionary based biology, the students should not be awarded a high school diploma. I wish the writer had left out his general misgivings about homeschooling because I think it distracts from his primary point. We can see that problem in the comments here.Again — if you are homeschooling and teaching your children *real* science then good on you — and them. If they have fulfilled the academic requirements, they have earned the high school diploma. Those that have *not* fulfilled the academic requirements have not earned the high school diploma and should not receive something that they did not earn.

  13. I think the other problem is picking on homeschoolers when public school results are not any better.I worked for an NSF funded education program, and one of the things they did was show a video of people who were graduating from places like Harvard and Yale. When asked what causes the seasons, they said that the earth gets closer to the sun at certain points in it’s orbit. (I believe one of the folks interviewed had a physics minor.) And they weren’t cherry picking…this is a pretty common view among the population in general.So if people can get degrees from presitigious institutions with a rather erroneous view of something as simple as what causes the seasons, I wonder why people aren’t freaking about the huge gaping holes in public school science education?

  14. Cherish,Trust me, I’m freaking out.But this particular argument is kind of a canard. The inadequacy of one system is not an excuse for the inadequacy of another system. Home schooling symps do not say “We’re pretty much as good as, more or less, the public education system” … they say “The public education system totally sucks and we are totally cool.” Which is annoying.

  15. Julia: First, a candid observation from a left wing nut(me) You posit that I feel “all children should be in public school in order to protect them from vicious parents”But I have been likened to the worst anti-homeschooling opponents. That’s weird, huh? But wait till I tell you who does that;_)—> My observation:I have yet to have one single homeschooler EVER actually ask what I think about homeschooling! Never, eveeer, never, ever. In twenty years of looking at the whackiness that generally passes for homeschooling;-) The presumptive, stereotypical tone of homeschoolers is so similar that I could patent it as a formula for ‘wall of silence of critical perspective’, but likely lose the patent right for infringement–to those 2[point] whatever % of the homeschoolers who ARE it.With that said, I think that public schools are generally despicable, if for no other reason than the trends toward revisionism, mass market capitalism infiltration, and the selective propagandizing that we see on a regular basis ( white hillbilly kids fifty to seventy five years ago were taught the paternalistic attitude of white liberalism towards blacks who were then called ‘colored’, whereas black children today are taught that all white people killed MLK with a big finger on the trigger, aimed at black civil rights, etc.; the PS is a hotbed for breeding people who can read instruction manuals for whatever they buy from Walmart, etc.)The only thing I like more than crappy public schools? The ability for every child to engage in the issues of their day, and to reason through what those issues are because they have a right to a piece of the future–that future shared with others in ‘society’.”However much they pretty it up with sports trophies, their main interest is in keeping their children from being exposed to certain information.”Whereas it is true that the right wing religious whackos certainly do shelter their kids from information, it is also true that the other side of patriarchal religion has its own agenda: mothers who want to teach their four year old girl about her clitoris with hands on lessons, in the disguise of ‘womens empowerment’; hippies who can barely spell their own names teaching their children about the importance of Ja’s weed, and creating baby potheads with a toke in the kids face; survivalists who believe the end is near because the pyramid is on the dollar bill; ‘renegade mid-wifes’ who raise girls so obsessed with their bodies that they become teen moms on the dole at 15; etc.This IS another side of homeschooling, but the funny thing is (harharhar) that the stereotype of the ‘perfect homeschool kid’, and my ‘kid was bullied’ is so bandied about, and such a mantra for HS’ers in general, that the real ‘other’ danger to HS kids never shows itself, because their is a complicity to ‘not critique’ homeschooling.To answer your question: hell no I wouldn’t want my kid around some of the crap in the PS, and I generally believe that a parent likely does know whats best for the child, if only because most parents use children as a sort of guided missile for their own self-involved baggage, whether that baggage is religious, socio-cultural, or other.Which of course is in strict accordance to my other belief, based on observing American parents in general, that there oughta be a license to have a kid…

  16. Greg,It appears what you are doing is trashing homeschooling on a very broad level as a way of avoiding discussion about what needs to be done to help public schooling. You are holding public schooling up as a gold standard and “the best thing for everyone”.Now, if you were to look at the specific reasons why public schooling may be flawed (and hence why people homeschool) and give a constructive discussion on what can be done to fix these things, I’d have a lot less to argue about. I agree that public schooling is necessary. Growing up in a very poor family, it is only through public schooling that I was able to get an education sufficient to get me to college. However, I had to deal with a lot of shit because of the fact that I was poor, a female interested in science, etc. Public schooling as an institution is a very noble idea. The implementation and individuals who make up this institution can often really screw a good thing up.The same can be said of homeschooling.So if you are going to throw a wide net over the institution of homeschooling and claim that it’s *all* messed up, then all you’re going to get in response is the reaction that you don’t like: “The public education system totally sucks and we are totally cool.” It’s more or less a mirror reaction to what you are saying.You are using false dichotomy, so you are inherently polarizing the discussion to a situation where we have to completely agree or disagree with what you say. So yes, in the way you are pitching this, I completely disagree. Now, if you want to discuss finer points of some of those “shades of grey”, perhaps there could be some productive discussion.

  17. It appears what you are doing is trashing homeschooling on a very broad level as a way of avoiding discussion about what needs to be done to help public schooling. You are holding public schooling up as a gold standard and “the best thing for everyone”.Nothing could be farther from the truth.Also, while a number of home schoolers do so because of their perception of public schooling being bad, I also find the following to be true:1) Many home schoolers home school for very different reasons but only use this as an excuse;2) Some home schoolers are very focused on making sure that every flaw and every bad incident related to public schools is well publicized to add fodder for this excuse-mill; and3) Many/most home schoolers are against the kind of study or record keeping that would actually allow us to make the comparisons that we are talking about here.If you look through the other posts on my site, you will see that I am happy to discuss and report on flaws in the public school system. I do a lot of work, for instance, regarding science education. The science education system is far, very far from adequate in our public schools and needs to be fixed.Your assertion that I’ve set up some kind of false dichotomy is simply untrue.

  18. Stephanie Z: However well your children did in other areas of their education, if you insisted that they only learn creationism, they didn’t learn everything they need to know to be effective citizens.Steph, your comment shows ignorance and prejudice about homeschooling, in addition to overstating the effect of not learning science as you accept it. Our kids learned about evolution, but they would still be effective citizens had they not.Homeschools don’t have half the problems of government schools.

  19. I think that failure to learn good science, homeschooled, public schooled, or any schooled, is a failure in the citizen-building area.I agree with Greg. “Homeschools don’t have half the problems of government schools.” is not a statement supported by any evidence.

  20. Woody, you’re not nearly as entertaining as CMF. If you want me to hear anything you’re trying to say, do two things. First, take the time to spell out my name. I’m not Steph. Second, learn how to disagree with someone without calling them ignorant and prejudiced. It lost a little impact here by being exactly the same charge you launched against Mr. Shives. You’re repeating yourself. And I’m merely annoyed at someone who argues with just the first paragraph of a long, thoughful post and then goes on to brag about the superiority of his kids by way of telling the rest of the world how wrong they are.

  21. Woody: and remember: Steph HATES babies almost as much as she LOVES badly done Baroque paintings full of chubby cherubs and nymphets fleeing from satyrs….

  22. Woody, you’re not nearly as entertaining as CMFI was just about to comment the same thing! … great minds …

  23. Woody: I think Eliz. was referencing her fondness for the phrase “creating baby potheads”…or maybe it was the thought that kids actually can have the “ability for every child to engage in the issues of their day”?

  24. Wow, nice to see this subject has legs somewhere else. It’s been the topic of a lively discussion over at my blog, where I also posted my article, for the last three days. I have to say that most of the homeschoolers I’ve spoken with have been very courteous and thoughtful people, and they’ve really changed my previous perception of the homeschool community as being primarily fundamentalist Christian. It’s a much more diverse and secular group than I had assumed.When Kelly says I could have helped myself by leaving homeschooling out of it entirely, she has a good point. My argument really isn’t just with homeschoolers, it’s with any form of education that teaches non-science (creationism/Intelligent Design) in place of real science. I have a lot of other problems with homeschooling, too, and my discovery of the MDHSA group so nearby, which grants state recognized diplomas despite teaching creationism, prompted me to try to marry the two subjects, which I admit I didn’t do as well as I could have.To the other commenters who say I’m dogging religious families, let me assure that I’m not. Religious freedom is a basic human right that should always be protected. You have the right to believe whatever you want. But schools should have the responsibility to teach children the truth. And the objective, empirical, scientifically verified truth is that life on Earth did not arise and develop as the creationist model would have us believe. Creationism simply isn’t true. Believe in it if you want, but schools should never teach it as science.Thanks for the link, Greg! I appreciate it, and I love reading everyone’s comments!–Steve Shives

  25. Steph: …learn how to disagree with someone without calling them ignorant and prejudiced.Stephanie, I merely pointed out that you and others who hold strong opinions against homeschooling have not done adequate research. Your perceptions are incorrect and come from bias rather than studies. Therefore, what you claim is not supported by truth, and that needs to be pointed out. Is it wrong to say that someone is not qualified? (Surely, you’ve never accused our President of that.)Beth: “Homeschools don’t have half the problems of government schools.” is not a statement supported by any evidence.Elizabeth, you are coming up with the typical liberal way of avoiding a discussion–asking for higher evidence beyond the obvious and none of which you would even outwardly agree was acceptable. It’s simply a cop-out.Homeschools are not: run by teacher unions, pawns of politicians, overrun by gangs, beset with waste, a place with drug and sex problems or for passing out birth control without parental notification, taught by educators who became certified because they took silly and useless courses, run by bureaucrats, a lab for social experiments and left-wing indoctrination, forced to avoid all uses of God, led by teachers from the college department of students with the lowest SAT scores, and expected to require all students to conform to a one size fits all mentiality. Do you want me to go one?From personal experience, I know that homeschoolers cover a full day of public school work by 11:00 AM and get better results. I speak from experience of public, private, and homeschools.Do you really need evidence?

  26. P.S. I didn’t mention that one of my children whom we homeschooled had a medical problem which could not be adequately accommodated by the public schools–one more advantage of homeschools.

  27. Your assertion that I’ve set up some kind of false dichotomy is simply untrue. There you go doing it again!Seriously, though, I and others have said here that this whole “homeschoolers don’t produce documentation business” is bull. I have listed links for places that deal with gifted education and advocate homeschooling. If you need me to, I will produce my son’s IQ scores as well as results from standardized testing achievement testing (from both before and after we homeschooled…and there’s a big difference (positive delta) in achievement testing). There is a SIG of Mensa that is devoted to homeschooling. There are a lot of people who do it for reasons other than religious!You and others like to ignore these little aspects of the discussion and say things, “But that’s just a small group of homeschoolers. On average, the whole thing sucks.”Well, on average, public schools suck as bad or worse than homeschooling. And according to the studies which have been done, the data substantiates it. People may like to poke holes in the data, but I have yet to see any studies which disprove this assumption. (And people don’t give me BS about how HSers avoid this. Homeschoolers are only too happy to show off how brilliant their children are, by your own arguments.) Give me some hard data (not just people poking holes in the studies already done), and maybe I’ll change my mind.

  28. Stephanie, you know as well as I do that there is NO SUCH THING AS GOOD BAROQUE…and of course that all good satyrs are ‘bad’….

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